It wasn’t exactly a surprise that last season’s Division Two top scorer Dean Thexton helped himself to a hat-trick in last night’s clash between Tow Law Town and Brandon United.

But the other three goals came from a much more unexpected source.  Prolific is hardly a description normally associated with centre half Dan Kirkup but the former Seaham Red Star and Jarrow Roofing defender matched his captain goal for goal in the blog’s second eight-goal match of the week.

It took them a while to get going, but once they did Tow Law were unstoppable.  Meanwhile, It was a vampire performance by the Brandon defence – crosses proved to be their downfall.

In the end it was a one-sided affair, but for the opening 10 minutes or so it promised to be a much more even game.  The two No. 9s traded chances.  Thexton with a free kick placed under the wall that was pushed away by Brandon keeper Jake Burns and then two shots by his counter-part Lee Blades.

Blades also provided a simple but effective pass out to his left to release left winger Jack Carr and the Brandon No. 11 took a touch and absolutely thumped it past Lawyers keeper Declan Greenwood to make it 0-1.

The lead only lasted five minutes when a slick move down the right led to a cross that was tucked away from a couple of feet from the goal line by Thexton for his first of the night.  A couple of minutes later Thexton turned two defenders before firing another shot just wide.  Tow Law took the lead soon afterwards.

Kirkup’s first of the night was the most fortunate of the game.  Scott McArdle scuffed his shot and the ball went in off Kirkup who was only a couple of feet from the goal.

Another cross almost led to a third for Tow Law.  Scott Oldfield sent the ball across and Matty Lovegreen met it at full pelt, forcing Burns into an instinctive, reaction save that was the best of the night.

Carr should have got his second of the game in the 30th minute when he beat the Tow Law offside trap by inches before striking it past Greenwood only to see it go the wrong side of the post.  It was a good opportunity missed.  It was the closest Brandon were to get to Tow Law for the rest of the game.

In the 36” minute the ball came over from a Tow Law corner and Kirkup rose above everyone else to power a header in to make it 3-1.  Two minutes later it was 4-1 when Kai Hewitson sent over another ball across the Brandon box from the right.  Thexton was on hand to score with a thumping shot to match Carr’s opener for the visitors.

Brandon were mounting fewer and fewer attacks the closer we got to half-time.

Like the first half, Brandon started the second half well and they managed to keep their improved football going for longer than the first.  Robbie Murray put a header over the bar then followed that up with a shot – again over the bar – three minutes later.  As a team they looked more competitive.

At the other end the visitors should have been punished for poor defending of another cross in the 62nd minute.  A ball from the left by Oldfield found Hewitson all alone in the Brandon box.  He seemed as surprised as anyone that he had so much time and space and he fluffed the chance.

A Brandon goal in the 75th minute – when Blades coolly slotted it past Greenwood to make it 4-2 – made the scoreline a bit more respectable, but Tow Law still had a couple of goals in them.

In the 80th minute Kirkup completed his hat-trick when he swung his leg at a Ross Nicholson pull back and then Thexton sealed the night with his third in the 88th minute when the Brandon defence failed to clear the ball.  Thexton was presented with it and the No. 9 planted it into the back of the net to make it a convincing win for the Lawyers.

Tow Law Town 6 Brandon United 2 – Ebac Northern League Division Two

(Hat-tip to Craig Lilley for the hat-trick headline)

Mike Snowdon

Team Northumbria has been fined £2,000 for the late notification of their withdrawal from the Ebac Northern League.

League chairman Glenn Youngman said:

“It is highly regrettable that the university made their decision so close to the new season.

“This was compounded by the fact that they confirmed their decision to the media before having the courtesy to formally inform the league of their resignation.

“A formal letter to the league secretary was only provided after we wrote to the club asking them to confirm the decision.  Prior to that, the only notification was a group email which was copied to our registrations secretary – but not to either myself or the league secretary.

“The lateness of the decision has meant that other clubs in the league have been adversely affected by relegation – a situation that would easily have been avoided by a timely resignation which would have allowed the FA to potentially make different decisions about relegation.

“In response to a Freedom of Information request which has been shared with the league, the university says that information about the decision is not held, that discussions about it were not minuted and there were no records of any notes being taken.

“I think the league, its clubs and spectators deserved a more professional and courteous approach by the university.”

The club was also fined £100 for failing to pay the membership fees which were due before the league’s annual general meeting in June and the £250 in membership fees for the current season.

Once upon a time the football leagues of County Durham were heavily populated by CWs. For the uninitiated, it means Colliery Welfare and was the football club attached to the local colliery, often financed by a subscription from those toiling underground or on the surface.

We still have two CWs in the Northern League. Easington are sure to figure in the blog soon as they play on Thursday nights and are descended on by groundhoppers from all the points of the compass.  Our estimable editor is a regular on the far side of the ground – unless it’s raining, which it often is.

Tuesday night’s game was at Ryhope CW. Ryhope is a former mining village on the edge of Sunderland. Until 1974 and the creation of that monstrosity “Tyne and Wear,” it was part of County Durham; its next door neighbour and deadly rival Silksworth owed its allegiance to Sunderland Borough Council.

The games between the two in the Wearside League were fiercely contested and often drew four figure crowds to the two Welfares. My late friend Dave Lish, a Ryhope lad through and through, told of battles on and off the pitch as bragging rights were fought for.

Now Ryhope have moved up and have a tidy set up at their Colliery Welfare. Walking through the gates, you pass the cricket ground, the bowling green and the tennis courts before handing over your £4.00 (senior citizens rates) and entering a tidy if unspectacular ground.

Surrounded by houses, I can imagine property developers drooling over the size of the site and calculating how many little boxes made of ticky-tacky they could stick on it. Dream on guys, dream on…….

Ryhope won their first league game 2-0 at Newton Aycliffe and then lost their FA Cup local derby with RCA, so they were probably due a draw. Shildon had drawn with Stockton and won at Guisborough and knew that a win could well take them to the top of the league.

The chat amongst the considerable Shildon support revolved around the signing of Keith Graydon, universally known as “Rasher”. He has had an excellent career in the Northern League, winning titles, Vases and the adoration of the supporters of Blyth Spartans, Spennymoor Town, Gateshead, Durham City, Newcastle Blue Star and Morpeth Town and he now adds Shildon to his list – for a month at least.

He made an immediate impact. In the sixth minute the ball broke to him just outside the box, he steadied himself and despatched a sumptuous volley past Ryhope keeper Jonathan Ball.

That was the end of the scoring until the 89th minute when substitute Billy Greulich-Smith, just back from Ibiza and about to embark on a seven-week odyssey around South East Asia, wrapped it up as the Colliery pushed forward in search of a deserved equaliser.

In between, there was some fine goalkeeping from Ball and Shaun Newbrook, a multitude of missed chances from both sides and some strange decisions by the officials.  Many felt that Shildon should have had a penalty when Waters was fouled in the box but failed to go down straight away (memo to Walters; if he pushes you son, go down) and when the excellent Ball picked up the match ball a good yard outside of his box, the assistant decided to ignore it.

There was a decent crowd of 126 and they enjoyed watching Ryhope batter away at the Shildon defence in the second half and seeing the Shildon defence, ably directed by player manager Moore, stand as firm as the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae.

It was a fine game, full of incident and played at a tremendous pace. It’s no wonder that visitors from other parts of the UK gaze at the Northern League in wonderment at its competitive nature and sheer quality.

Next week I shall be in Kent and will take in a game in the Premier Division of the Southern Counties East League; I doubt that it will be anywhere near the standard of this one.

Ryhope CW 0 Shildon 2 – Ebac Northern League Division One

Pete Sixsmith

Following on from our clubs progressing in the Emirates FA Cup, there are four changes to league fixtures:

Saturday 25th August 2018
Newton Aycliffe v Bishop Auckland (from 13/10)
North Shields v Stockton Town (from 09/02)

Wednesday 12th September 2018
North Shields v Guisborough Town (from 25/08)

Wednesday 26th September 2018
Newcastle Benfield v Bishop Auckland (from 25/08)

After this week’s replays in the Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round below are the games involving Ebac Northern League clubs for the Preliminary Round Qualifying

1 – Knaresborough Town v. Blyth AFC
3 – Dunston UTS v. Pontefract Collieries
4 – Newcastle Benfield v. West Auckland Town
5 – Whitley Bay v. Barnoldswick Town
7 – Consett v. Seaham Red Star
8 – Tadcaster Albion v. Shildon
9 – Clitheroe v. Sunderland RCA
12 – Albion Sports v. Guisborough Town

Games to be played on Saturday 25th August 2018

Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Qualifying Round replay

Put simply, it was a privilege to be at this absolutely wonderful game of football.  Next year’s final won’t be as good as this.

It had the lot.  Quality play, bags of goals – and a couple of gems among them – guts, determination, passion and controversy right at the death.

I’m not sure I’m going to do it justice, but here goes.  It was a roller coaster ride.

The big picture was that Heaton Stannington played some excellent football that was pleasing on the eye but for parts of the game they just kept falling short:  their crosses just evaded their strikers and they lacked a bit of guile to find the last touch or pass to open up the Red Star defence.

As you’d expect, Red Star battled and scrapped.  Poise by their No. 10 Lee Hetherington gave them a valuable early lead when he was given too much space by the Stan defence.  He was put under no pressure and he slotted it past Heaton keeper Dan Regan.

For a couple of minutes the home defence wobbled a bit but the team re-grouped and Matty Parker fired in a great shot.  Red Star defender Daryll Donnelly threw his body in the way.  They had the next chance too.  A long kick out by Regan from his 20-yard line caught Red Star keeper Andrew Hunter off his line and he had to pedal backwards sharpish to tip the ball over the bar.  Heaton Stan kept the pressure on and Red Star were happy to keep booting the ball clear.

At the other end Seaham were almost gifted a goal when a loose header back by Josh Miller fell short, with Regan just managing to beat Paul Gardiner to the ball.

We had to wait until the second half before the goals really started to flow.  Warren Byrne got the next with an untidy kick/mis-kick that left Regan stranded to make it 0-2 in the 49th minute.  The football was cranked up several gears for the rest of the game.

Stan’s Ryan Bailey with a shot just wide, Gardiner trying to slip the ball past Regan who got just enough on it to snuff the chance out.  Then Heaton Stannington got the goal they deserved and it was a great strike by Joe Kerridge who picked his spot from 20-odd yards out to beat a batch of defenders and Hunter to score.

They were rocked by a third Red Star four minutes later when David Palmer jinked past a couple of defenders and all of a sudden the goal opened up before him and he struck it over Regan.   Heaton Stannington heads dropped and it looked as though the stuffing had been knocked out of them.  It gave Red Star a boost and they started to play their best football of the game and Donnelly could have made it four when he got his head to a corner but he couldn’t find the target.  Vinnie Gash and Hetherington then combined with a quick break, with Regan sprinting out of his box to block Gash as he was about to shoot.  Stan left back Dan Sayer then booted a Red Star cross clear as the ball spun across the six yard box.

For the last 15 minutes of normal time it was just about all Heaton Stannington.  An Andrew Robertson free kick rattled off the bar.  Substitute Jon Wright then produced a brilliant strike and then tried his luck to turn the game around for the hosts.

His first made it 2-3.  He got the ball more than 25 yards out and absolutely thumped it into the net, leaving Hunter rooted to the spot.  The Stan’s first goal had been good, this one was even better.  All of a sudden it was game on.  Adrenalaine rushed through the team.  They took the game by the scruff of the neck and pressed and pressed for an equaliser.  Red Star were hanging on.  They kept asking the officials how long was left in the game – hoping the final whistle was coming sooner rather than later.  Manager Mark Collingwood urged his players to slow the game down and get some possession but they couldn’t wrest control of the game back.

With four minutes to go Heaton Stannington came within a whisker of getting an equaliser when Wright unleashed another blinder with Hunter pulling off a top save to tip it over the bar.  The equaliser came in dramatic style in the 90th minute when Wright had another go with a last-gasp, desperate shot that should have been a relatively easy take for the Red Star keeper.  Instead it slipped through his hands and in.  In the closing seconds of the 90, Robertson was within inches of connecting with a Lewis Burns cross and we went into extra time.

The Stan had finished normal time on a high.  They couldn’t quite match that for the opening couple of minutes of extra time.  Red Star re-grouped and got their noses in front again when Gash ran onto a through ball and managed to squeeze it past Regan.  It seemed to take an age before reaching the net.  Gardiner followed that up with a great turn and snap shot forcing a good save out of Regan.

Could the Stan dig deep and find an equaliser?  You bet, and all thanks to Robertson who headed home, getting on the end of a deep cross.  They’d shown bags of character to mount the comeback.

Gardiner had the ball in the net at the other end but was judged to be offside.

And then a massive decision

With five seconds of extra time to play, Heaton Stannington looked to have won a nailed on penalty when Richie Hoggins was bundled over in the box.  The appeals by the Stan bench and players were waved away and it was down to who could hold their nerve for penalties.

From being the villain of the piece for the Stan’s fourth goal, Hunter was the hero of the shoot-out, twice diving to his right to deny the Heaton Stan penalty takers.  The saves proved decisive and Red Star didn’t need to take the last of their five spot kicks.

Players and spectators alike were exhausted.  It had been a hell of a ride and it was a game that re-affirmed why we love football.  Thanks to all the players involved.

Heaton Stannington 4 Seaham Red Star 4 (aet).  Red Star win 4-2 on penalties.

Two post scripts:  Unsurprisingly, this is probably the longest blog I’ve written.

And secondly Red Star manager Mark Collingwood came up with quote of the week during the game when he was less than pleased that a free kick was given against one of his players for a foul.

“I’ve seen more contact on Love Island” was his terse assessment of the ref’s decision.

Mike Snowdon